Game Design

Data-Driving Unreal Engine 4 for Workflow, Hotfixes, and Live-Ops - by Trent Polack

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 25 January 2018 - 2:58am
Avoiding reliance on cooked/binary data for data-driven game elements and/or everyday workflow and using basic JSON files for data. And JSON is, of course, introduced by none other than Ethan Mars from Heavy Rain.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Lawful GM: Adventure Ideas

RPGNet - 25 January 2018 - 12:00am
Adventure seeds for law and politics.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Warlord Games Hiring Social & Digital Media Coordinator

Tabletop Gaming News - 24 January 2018 - 3:00pm
With all the releases that Warlord Games has been having lately, there’s a lot of people out there talking about them. But they want that word to spread further. Plus, keeping up with social media is a huge undertaking. Trust me, I know… Anyway, all that being said, Warlord’s hiring a new Social & Digital […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

The Devil’s Level Card Game Up On Kickstarter

Tabletop Gaming News - 24 January 2018 - 2:00pm
As we know from the Bible (as well as many heavy metal songs), the number 666 is associated with forces not so aligned with good things (depending on who you ask/read, it’s the Devil’s number, or the Antichrist’s number, or the Number of the Beast, and so forth and so on). In The Devil’s Level […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Free John Carter of Mars Quickstart Adventure Available From Modiphius

Tabletop Gaming News - 24 January 2018 - 1:00pm
“Try before you buy.” That’s a motto I follow as much as possible in my life. I simply don’t have the time, money, or space to get every game that is released (and unless you’re Elon Musk or Carrot Top, I doubt you do, either). So that’s why I love when a company puts out […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Normandy: the Beginning of the End Tactical War Game Up On Kickstarter

Tabletop Gaming News - 24 January 2018 - 12:00pm
The storming of the beaches at Normandy. It’s arguably one of the most important days in world history. Certainly, the entire outcome of WWII could be in question if that invasion hadn’t gone the way it did. As such, every aspect of it has been picked over time and again, both by experts and those […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Midweek Snippets

Tabletop Gaming News - 24 January 2018 - 11:00am
Well… my week’s taking a bit of a turn. Woke up this morning with a slight cough. Here’s to hoping that doesn’t turn into anything. Not really interested in being sick. So I’m making sure to keep my fluids up, taking a bit of Dayquil, and need to stay fed with some bite-sized gaming stories. […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Infinity: Infinity RPG Core Book

New RPG Product Reviews - 24 January 2018 - 10:32am
Publisher: Modiphius
Rating: 5
The Introduction begins by laying out its stall: Infinity is an epic science-fiction game. Humanity has escaped its home solar system and reached for the stars and scattered through the galaxy... but finds itself in a fragile state as it has fractured into many factions that are maintaining an uneasy peace after past wars, but underneath that peace covert operations and even the odd brawl still occur. There's a dizzying array of technological marvels allowing continuous contact, augmented reality and simultaneous physical and digital interactions driven by bioengineering and cybertechnology. The game is adventure on the edge of space, often the edge of what's possible. True AI is just beginning... and then an alien Combined Army threatens everything humanity has worked to achieve!

It's all very exciting, with wormhole technology being used to cross interstellar distances and discover a whole bunch of habitable worlds... and novel resources such as a strange metallic substance that now lies at the heart of nanotechnology and viable quantum computing. These and many more wonders are described in a dizzying outpouring that describes the worlds of the future, setting the scene in which the game is played. It then moves on to the timeline, explaining how this wonderful future developed. It makes for fascinating reading, and is well rooted in human behaviour, drawing on history to imagine future conflicts. Superpowers, gang wars, religious disputes... Earth seemed on the brink of destruction - a very good time to think of expanding towards the stars. There's masses of information here to help you get the feel of the universe your characters will inhabit.

The Introduction ends with a discussion of the sort of campaigns and adventures you might play. The default is that the party are agents of Bureau Noir, the 'secret service' of an international pan-stellar organisation called O-12 whose mission is to keep the peace amongst all the factions of humanity. Just to keep things interesting, individual party members may also have allegience to one of the factions, undertaking errands (often secretly) alongside the missions they are tasked with by O-12. Naturally if that doesn't appeal to your group, a setting as rich and diverse as this one presents plenty of opportunities for adventure - exploring, trading, or working for a faction furthering its aims.

Next is a summary of how the rules of the game work. If you are already familiar with the Modiphius 'house' system 2D20, this will be straightforward, but it is an easy system to pick up even if you are new to it. Of particular note - and key to the cinematic quality of the game - is Heat and Momentum. Momentum is defined as 'success building on success' - every time you roll more than you need for success in task resolution, you can gain Momentum points to apply to a later die roll of your choice. Heat is the other side, it's the points the GM accumulates when things go astray and uses to make life even more difficult for the party. If a player doesn't have Momentum when they feel the need to use it, they can give the GM Heat points to get some... It's a neat system mechanically and although it may sound a bit clunky and intrusive, once the group has got used to it, it will run in the background - just get a fistfull of little counters to help keep track! That's standard to the 2D20 system, but in this game there are also Infinity Points which are gained by using character traits in some dramatic manner or as rewards for outstanding role-playing and which may be used in a variety of ways to shape things to your own ends mechanically.

We then move on to Part 1: Characters, looking at the lifepath system used in character generation. This system begins with the character's birth and tracks through what happens to them right up to when play begins. Mechanically, there are nine Decision Points that shape his life - but you have five 'Life Points' to guide him through the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. You end up with a personal background that - like your own - is shaped partly by chance and partly by the decisions that you make. It all begins with determining initial abilities, then the faction and planet where you were born, and your family's status there. After a 'youth event' you gain an education, go through an 'adolescent event' and go through one to three career phases, before putting the finishing touches to your career. There are random tables for each of these, but you may use your Life Points to make choices for some of them - with five Life Points and nine Decision Points you won't be able to choose everything, so decide what's vital to the character you want. An elegant system which can provide hours of endless fun... a good idea, as you don't knock out characters that quickly with such a system, so have a few in your folder ready just in case you need one mid-game!

Loads of detail about each stage is provide to help you understand everything you need to know. All through this process, you gain skills and traits just as in any character generation process. Some you choose specifically, others come associated with the choices you make or what life throws at you. There is also an alternative point-buy system which, with the GM's permission, you can use to custom-design a character without any random elements. Nice if you have a very detailed character concept in mind, but the random element does make for a more interesting character! Just reading through all the tables spawns many ideas for characters... and should give the GM plenty of plot material for when your past catches up with you! This is followed by details of how to improve a character and extensive notes on all the skills available.

Next, Part 2: Action Scenes provides information and game mechanics to aid in the running of action scenes that bring the excitement to every adventure. Combat scenes combine actual physical brawling with 'infowar' and 'psychowar' elements in a flexible and powerful system. Ultimately, though, a combat comes in rounds during which characters take actions in initiative order - but there's a dizzying array of actions that can be taken. It will take a while to become accustomed to all of them but as you do it makes for a rich combat experience. There's plenty more than brawling, though - this section looks at intrusion, hacking, research, social interaction, and many other areas you might not at first think of when someone says 'action'! This section ends with notes on vehicles and their uses.

Moving on, we come to Part 3: The Human Sphere. This contains information on life in the Human Sphere - the area of space explored and settled by human beings - including a gazeteer and masses of information that characters will have grown up with, but which are novel to their players. Of particular note is 'Maya' - the development of the Internet into something vastly superior and immersive - and the concept of a personal area network that seamlessly links each individual with their devices and the wider world (now you see why infowar features in combat!). People can literally interact both socially and digitally at the same time, without even, for example, getting your phone out to show someone a photo... it's just there, in augmented reality. An application called a geist provides personal concierge services, arranging your life seamlessly and maintaining order in the wealth of images and sensations flying around, while memories are recorded in a Cube which can enable resurrection after death. Interstellar travel, popular sports, the factions and all the worlds you can visit are also detailed here, a vast wealth of information that brings this rich setting to vivid life. The section ends with what has so far been discovered about the Tohaa, an alien race that has approached the Human Sphere with the offer of an alliance against the Combined Army.

Part 4: Gear completes the 'player' section with reams of detail about the weapons, armour and equipment available. Personal electronics, enhancements, lifestyle, services, travel and even resurrection are all covered here with details of how they work in terms of game mechanics as well as from the standpoint of role-playing a character using them.

Now, GM territory looms, with the final section Part 5: Gamemaster. It begins with notes on running the game, ranging from general tips that will help you become a better GM overall to material specific to the Infinity RPG. There's plenty of detail on adversaries, including how to create them from the bottom up and how to deploy them to best effect, with plenty of example NPCs (not necessarily adversaries, they might be friendly and helpful, or just chance encounters) and not forgetting aliens and creatures that may also be encountered. You might wonder at the lack of an introductory adventure, but with over 500 pages already filled there isn't room... but you get a free PDF adventure called Quadronic Heat - also available separately and I'll review it shortly - to download when you buy the core rules.

This game comes ready-packed with an immense rich setting as well as an exceptional character generation system and endless possibilities when it comes to what the characters can actually do... a mature and elegant game that should keep gamers happy for years to come.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Everything Epic Games Launches Rambo: The Board Game Kickstarter

Tabletop Gaming News - 24 January 2018 - 10:00am
He was just a down-on-his-luck Vietnam veteran, trying to make his way across the country. At least, that’s how it started. By the end, he was out there, gunning down anything and everything. He’s John Rambo, and you’ve seen him in the movies, now you’ll be able to see him on your tabletop. Everything Epic […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Night of Man: Alone Against the Aliens Now Available As PDF

Tabletop Gaming News - 24 January 2018 - 9:00am
It’s always good when companies listen to their consumers. Feedback from the people is a great way to know exactly what they want. Well, Flying Pig Games has heard you. They’ve made it so you can get their Night of Man: Alone Against the Aliens as a downloadable pdf file. You can get your copy […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

GDC State of the Industry: Dev interest in Nintendo Switch up, VR interest down

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 24 January 2018 - 8:59am

The 2018 Game Developers Conference survey of nearly 4,000 devs brings many findings, most notably that devs are embracing the Nintendo Switch -- and "loot box" monetization methods. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Everdell Board Game Up On Kickstarter

Tabletop Gaming News - 24 January 2018 - 8:00am
The valley of Everdell is a magical utopia, nestled underneath the branches of huge trees, the creatures living there are in harmony. But the current town is getting a bit cramped and it’s time to expand. In Everdell, players take on the role of leaders in the community looking to found and expand their own […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Teaching players to rig elections - by Alex Driml

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 24 January 2018 - 7:20am
How we made a game with the purpose of teaching people about politics without being boring.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

5 Common mistakes made by students making their first games and how to fix them - by Stuart Lilford

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 24 January 2018 - 7:18am
As a lecturer in game design I see and play a lot of student games. lot of these games seem to make the same recurring mistakes. This article hopes to help provide solutions on how to avoid these mistakes with your first game.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

The Maturing Mobile Market: Why Fostering Firm Feedback Pays Off - by Lauri Lukka

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 24 January 2018 - 7:16am
This two-part series explores the contemporary practices in mobile game development by interviewing nine Finnish mobile game studios.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Join the Heist: Behind the Burgal (Part 2) - by Blair Pyle

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 24 January 2018 - 7:15am
With the upcoming launch of Burgal's Bounty, I wanted to write about the long history of the game and some of the challenges of the development process. Burgal's Bounty is coming to iOS and Android on February 15th, 2018. 
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Phaser to iOS without PhoneGap or Cordova - Touch & Sound - by Harold Bowman-Trayford

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 24 January 2018 - 7:13am
Follow up to my previous post in which I covered the basics of getting an image loaded into Phaser, this time I add touch and sound.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Avoiding PCG Pitfalls - by Rik van Peer

Gamasutra.com Blogs - 24 January 2018 - 7:12am
PCG is a powerful technique that can help projects achieve great things. However, there are certain pitfalls that can end up costing you time instead. This article talks about some of those pitfalls and certain steps you can take to avoid them.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Directing The Camera

Gnome Stew - 24 January 2018 - 7:05am

 

I was playing in a game where Amit Moshe (City of Mists) was running us through a noir based supernatural game. As our characters were running around, using our powers to chase down a cult, and playing a generally narrative based game, Amit said something that solidified a bunch of nebulous thoughts I’d had about how to narrate things as a Game Master. Amit said “And now let’s direct the camera out from our current group, up over the rooftops of the misty city, and back down on the cultists at the old church…”.

Direct The Camera struck me in my brainpain and put a nice bow on a lot of narrative concepts I’ve worked with. I have a background in video production, at one point in time in my life having worked on audio and video production for sports, PBS stations, and corporate video, as well as my own projects. A lot of the similarities in putting together a dynamic and ever changing story that I love about gaming dovetail into what I love about movies and TV as a medium for telling a story with many avenues that information can be delivered. When Amit called out Directing The Camera, I realized how much I GMed in that style already – describing what might be seen by a viewer watching the TV show of the game I was running, putting together basic animations to start off campaigns, thinking of sessions as episodes in a story arc, etc. I’ve written many articles about it and even 1/3 of a book with a theme of a movie studio (Focal Point) to codify the GMing advice.

Looking Behind The Curtain

Calling out the movie-themed nature of the narrtive was a totally different step into the meta sphere that I’d never really considered taking, but in retrospect I realized how incredibly useful solidyfing that experience for the players can be. In many ways, the group at the table is the audience for the story they are telling, but their experience is of the actors and people pushing the story along. In a game that relies heavily on rails and structure, the group may be feeling much like the audience, feeding the machine with the proper actions to move it forwards, but in more open games the group feels their ability to modify the world first and often forgets that other things are going on around them. Directly calling out the “Camera” moves them temporarily into the audience perspective and directs their attention to the action in a way they may not have considered.

Moving the camera is as simple as saying that you are doing it. When you would otherwise describe that “the plasma blasts come flying through the air, impacting around you and leaving scorch marks on the metal walls”, imagine the epic way this would look if it were a movie, and call out the camera, like so:

“The guards blaster fires, and the camera swings away from you to the guards face, his eyes squint as he aims, the camera moves to the barrel of the gun with the light and plasma blast escaping from the end in slow motion. Fire flares out the exhaust vents on the side and the oval of light and sun-hot fire flies through the corridor in slow motion, moving past combatants, looking like it is standing still and the world is moving around it. As it reaches near you, the camera zooms out and the blast impacts in the wall right next to your head. Ok, what next.”

This narration, calling out the camera and taking the simple scenario and turning it into a cinematic moment, functions much like a cutscene in a video game would. Even if you don’t got into the same detail, the step aside from being actors in the action to being the audience creates a secondary perspective for the players, one of thinking of the action going on as a cinematic experience. They may already be imagining these incredible things in their head, but calling it out with a small bit of narration from the “camera’s” perspective, helps them do this alongside all of their thoughts about how to overcome the BBEG and when the pizza is going to arrive.

A Little Goes A Long Way

The technique of Directing the Camera is something that has a deep impact, and works well when focusing on the actions of NPCs, the reactions to incredible moments, and when revealing some information to the players in a more interesting way that you want them to focus in on. It isn’t the sort of thing that you want to use for every narrative element in your game. Narrating every attack this way would quickly make it wearisome and time consuming, but doing the first attack of the epic combat, or using a quick camera narration for every third or fourth attack of the boss as it really pummels a character with multiple attacks really inceases the narrative tension and engagement.

Directing the Camera is realy just a recategorization of a narrative technique that a Game Master already does. We already narrate the events as if there is a camera on them. Whether that camera is our own mind’s eye, the eye of an invisible audience member, or the eyes of a bystander in the scene we are describing, calling out the camera makes it an agent and puts the players in dual places – one within the action and one watching it. It’s almost like grabbing the player’s head and making them see things from a certain perspective, just without any physical assault at the game table.

What narrative techniques do you use to control the player’s perception? Have you found that breaking the 4th wall in this way increases or decreases immersion? Did you have a eureka moment like I did when Amit used the phrase in his game?

Categories: Game Theory & Design

New Portuguese Infantry and Officers Available For Black Powder

Tabletop Gaming News - 24 January 2018 - 7:00am
Another day, another army release from Warlord Games. They certainly are taking no prisoners when it comes to new releases this week. With the new book coming out for Black Powder being about the Peninsular Campaign, it only makes sense that there’d be Portuguese forces available, and such is the case. There’s new rank-and-file troops […]
Categories: Game Theory & Design

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